Challenge #35 – completed

6 Jul

My aim to read 40 non-fiction books before I am 40 is over. I’ve never been a big lover of non-fiction so I decided to attempt to clear my shelves of some of the books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. I must say I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would. Here are the books I read to complete the challenge:

The Healing Self: Supercharge your immune system and stay well for life by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi – I get the irony of me finishing reading this book, just as lockdown started. There were interesting anecodes in the book but I would say that there was anything majorly life changing about the book. It advocated practising meditation, eating less meat and not drinking alcohol which are fairly standard practices for people who want to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – this book is about the author’s struggle with coming to terms with her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s serious illness. I found it fairly indulgent and the most interesting part for me was how she dealt with her grief rather than her feelings of obligation to her daughter. A lot of the thoughts about grief and loss were familiar to me. I wished the whole book was devoted to exploring this rather than just dipping into the subject.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – I credit this book with being the main reason I managed to finish the first draft of my novel. It’s a great read about why people fail to tackle goals they set themselves and how to recify this. There are lots of practical examples and tips to help you achieve any goal, no matter how big or small. To read a full review, check out my writer’s website here.

How to Get What You Want in the Workplace by John Gray – this is the third book of John Gray’s I’ve read for this challenge. I like the advice he gives and how it makes you rethink about how communications between men and women differ. In some respects, this books gives very similar advice and observances to the other books I read but I still found it useful and I’m trying to incorporate the advice into situations at work, though that is difficult at the moment when I’m working from home!

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox – This was a very interesting and funny book. The author looked at all aspects of English life from the pub, to queuing and attitudes towards brands of cars. Parts of it were funny and parts really made me think differently about social situations and the class system in England. I would love to read more books like this.

Dare To Connect by Susan Jeffers – I’ve tried to read this book before but failed. I managed to get through it this time and loved it. (I guess before it wasn’t the right time to read it). It’s all about connect with people and how having the right connections with the right people can help you achieve happiness. A great book.

A Rebel’s Guide to Inner Peace by Mahima Lucille Klinge – part autobiographical work, part self-help book, I found this interesting. I actually received this when I went to a conference arranged by the author last year. It was interesting to read more about how she had come to be at the point in her life where she was coaching people to improve their lives and as a reminder about the things I learnt at that conference. I am grateful I went on the conference and read this book as I benefited from it greatly.

How to Work with Just About Anyone by Lucy Gill – after reading this book, I realised that I have it easy as work. All the examples given in the book seemed to involve utterly awful people. If my work colleagues were that bad I would quit my job and be done with it. There was some good advice though which, again, I will hope to use in the future… if I haven’t forgotten it all after working from home for so long.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – as running an Ultra marathon is also on my list of things to do before I am 40, I thought this would be a great place to find tips for me to use in my training. The author was an over-weight middle-aged man who realised his lifestyle was slowly killing him so he changed his lifestyle and fell into long distance running. He went on to complete in the world’s most grueling competitions, such as Ironman races. It’s an inspiring story and, although I doubt I will compete in Ironman’s, I have learnt a lot about training for an Ultra. I highly recommend it if you are interested in competing over longer distances.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – this book had me in floods of tears at the end and I don’t care who knows it. The author wrote the book as a legacy to his young children after he was diagnose with terminal cancer. So many parts of the book struck a chord with me and the book was a reminder that although life is short, you can achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

I have now completed 22 of my 40 challenges. I’m starting to worry about completing the travel-related ones on time but I am pushing on regardless.

Bye June!

30 Jun

Another month has come and gone and we are half way through 2020. It’s strange to think we have spent about half of this year in lockdown and I am still working from home at least for another month. What a crazy year.

June itself has been pretty uneventful. Things have been slowly opening up in Switzerland but I’m more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home for the time being and spend time doing (socially distant) sports.

I have started going back to the gym in the mornings. Two weeks before lockdown I signed up for a 12 week fitness plan. I was just getting into it when I had to stop. I’m now in the third week of restarting the programme and I’m starting to feel the benefits already. This means my ambitious running targets have been dropped for the time being but I did get out of bed this morning at 5.30am to go for a 10km run because I realised yesterday that I hadn’t run a 10km in June. I enjoyed it a lot and the sun hadn’t come up. I hate running in heat!

I’ve finished another one of my 40 Before 40 challenges this month as well. I’ve not written about it because I only finished it yesterday but that will be coming soon and I’ve started another challenge from the list – which will take about 6 months to complete.

I’m going strong on my alcohol-free year. It’s something like 130 days now and I’m finding it ok. I think it’s definitely having a positive effect on my wasitline as well as my pocket.

I took part in an online theatre performance. A playwright had written a series of Zoom calls for us to perform all based on Lockdown life and the performance was recorded. I was so nervous about it but I enjoyed it and I hope the audience did too!

My writing progress has slowed down a bit. You might remember I finished the first draft of a novel in May and my plan is to get busy on some other writing before coming back to it later in the year to start the first of many rounds of edits. The hope that I would be able to use my ‘high’ of finishing the book would end up with me being more productive on other writing projects wasn’t been realised. But I have two submissions for competitions in early July to make so I need to get cracking on those or I’ll miss the deadlines.

In July I will be taking part in my online reading challenge again, aiming to read 10 books which fit 10 different categories. I’m happy this challenge means I will be able to get some more room on my reading shelves.

I am also aiming to post every Monday in July on this blog because I realise I haven’t been so good with updating this recently. This is partly because I’ve not done anything that deviated especially from my lockdown routine so it didn’t seem like there was that much to say.

Life after Lockdown

18 Jun

With restrictions slowly lifting, I was thinking about what life would be like when things return back to normal after Lockdown, or at least as normal as they can be after a global pandemic.

I know some people have struggled with the restrictions and have found life difficult but I’ve try to embrace Lockdown life and make the most of it. If you know me, you’ll know that I love travelling but not being able to has given me time to think about what else I like doing and what projects I could do safely from home that have been on my to-do list for a long time.

I am hoping that working from home will continue long into the future (at the moment we have been told to work from home until the end of July and then spilt working will come into effect all being well) because I feel a lot more relaxed working in my little office space at home and I can do everything as well as I can if I was sitting in an office in Zurich.

I have been thinking about what things that I started during Lockdown I want to keep doing. Here’s a little list:

  1. I am pretty bad at keeping in contact with people. I blame social media for a portion of this. When I can see what people have posted from day to day, I feel like I have been in contact with them but seeing where someone went for dinner or which airport they are flying from on their latest holiday is not the same as picking up the phone or sending someone a personal message to see how they are. I’ve made an effort to speak to family and friends, and reconnected with others, during Lockdown and it feels good to hear back from people or to spend 15 minutes on a video call catching up. I will endeavour to carry this on.
  2. We’ve been having a weekly family quiz. I’ve lost count of how many weeks this has been but I’ve really enjoyed hunting down questions when it was my turn to write them or scratching my head at questions when I wasn’t quiz master. I’m not saying that I want to commit to a weekly quiz in the future but I wouldn’t mind doing it once a month or so. I’ve also been doing a monthly quiz for the netball club because we haven’t been able to train which has been fun too. Basically, quizzing is here to stay.
  3. This is a strange one… during the panemdic I ordered monthly contact lenses online. I’d switched to single use lenses more than 10 years ago. Seeing reports of wildlife and nature thriving while people weren’t travelling made me think I should do more for the environment. So I decided using monthly lenses would cut down on my non-recyclable plastic waste and I will save a ton of money too!
  4. I’ve managed to draft a novel in Lockdown and in general I am enjoying my writing and I’ve made some good habits around my writing. I can see it’s improving slowly so I would love for this creativity to carry on, espeically when I come back to editing my novel (which needs a huge amount of work.)
  5. Running has been a regular part of my day over the past three months. It meant getting out of the house and enjoying fresh air. The highlights were my early morning runs. I’ve forced myself out of bed a handful of times for, what I call, morning miles and every time I was amazed by nature. I managed to see a fox early one morning, another time a red kite swooped down to catch some prey less than 10 meters away from me and I saw two rabbits running away from a fox last week. Incredible stuff which made the long hard slog of a weekend run worth it.
  6. I realised yesterday that I haven’t had to make an excuse to get out of any social activities. I know what you’re thinking – that’s easy because we haven’t been able to socialise! But actually a lot of my hobbies and groups have moved online, like writing group and drama classes. I’ve found it really liberating to not feel that awful sensation of guilt about trying to come up with an excuse about not wanting to do something that I signed up to do when I was feeling in a better mood. I am hoping to have the courage in the future to be more honest and able to only make plans I want to commit to.

Has there been anything about Lockdown that you would like to keep?

Sobering thoughts

11 Jun

100 days ago I started the 7th challenge on my 40 Before 40 list – to go alcohol-free for a year.

I had several reasons to add this to my list. The first reason was related to health reasons. I’d happily drink pint after pint without any issue. The problem is not only the affect on your liver and internal organs but also the affect it has on your waistline. Drinks contain more calories than you realise. As I am trying to get fit, it made sense that this had to go.

The second reason was because I realised how many days I have wasted in my life because of alcohol. My hangovers last for about 3 days now depending on how much I’ve had to drink. Weekends have been wasted and plans not followed through because I felt terrible. Avoiding alcohol would mean being more productive, at least in theory.

And, I suppose, the final reason was because I have given up alcohol in the past for about 3 months. I gave up one January because I was running a half marathon in mid-March and managed to smash my PB. I know this wasn’t 100% due to giving up alcohol but it was a postive contribution to it.

So, here I am at just over 100 days into my 365 challenge and, therefore, in unchartered territory. It was always my intention to start the challenge on 1st March 2020. I didn’t realise it would coincide with a global pandemic. I’m not sure if the timing is a blessing or a curse. The temptation of going out to pubs and restaurants has been completely removed but I have a feeling that when the world reopens (whenever that may be) the biggest party known to mankind will happen and I will be sat in the corner nursing a tepid tap-water!

If I’m being brutally honest, I haven’t missed drinking at all. There are so many alcohol-free alternatives on the market these days that I’ve had plenty of options to choose from. Many of them have a similar taste to the *real* stuff so I haven’t been yearning for that unmistakable hit of hops. However, I can’t say I feel super-duper fantastic for my efforts. I’ve not lost any weight and I don’t feel any different to when I started. But I’m happy to blame this on COVID-19.

I have also been surprised at how many of my friends have suggested drinks and brands of non-alocholic drinks to try which has been a big help and a great source of support!

Even though I’m about a third of the way through this challenge, I have a feeling it’s might get tougher as time ticks on. But I’ll let you know my progress along the way.

One of my favourite non-alcoholic beers – so far

Challenge #9 – completed

4 Jun

Lockdown life handed me another great opportunity to tick another of my challenges off my list. You would be right for guessing this doesn’t have anything to do with my challenges that involve travelling. This challenge required focus and quiet time with my laptop.

It’s a lot of people’s dreams to write a novel and it has been one of my dreams for a long time. I’ve tried and failed to complete a first draft of a novel a few times – most recently in 2018. I decided lockdown was the perfect opportunity to try and crack the mission I’ve wanted so much to achieve but have so far failed.

So at the end of April, with a headful of ideas that I thought might be worth writing about, I started with the intention of finishing the first draft by the end of May. I wanted to write at least 800 words a day and, because my mum wasn’t able to come and visit but I had to take my holidays from my day job, I decided to write 2’000 words on these days.

I know it doesn’t sound like a huge amount of words but it is. Especially when you are writing without a definite plan of what is happening in the story. I knew exactly what I wanted the main character to be like and what difficulties she had to overcome but I didn’t know much else.

Some days it was easy to reach 800 words and some days it was hard because either I was tired or I wasn’t sure what was happening in that bit of the story. But I managed to finish my first draft on the afternoon of the 31st May 2020. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so emotionally and physically drained in all my life.

The story is far from perfect and the writing is scary in places despite it not being a horror story but I’ve tired so many times to write a first draft and failed that it is a big achievement.

I need to put a lot more thought into the characters and the plot which will be hard work but I have a good framework to go back to and improve. I also have a list of things as long as my arm that I need to research!

For now I’m having a break from the story. A writer friend of mine suggested two to three months before going back to it which seems like a good timeline to me. I woke up from a dream last night, realised what I was dreaming about needed to be included in my book, made a note of it on my phone and fell back to sleep so on a subconscious level I’m still thinking about it.

I have been thinking if a publishing house might want to publish it but even if they don’t after countless revisions, I’ll probably self-publish it anyway! That seems like a long way off in the distance. For now I’m glad to have a break from it and enjoy getting back to writing some short stories and come back to my porject last on this year.

If you are interested I have set up my own writer’s website. I’m also trying to blog semi-regularly there about all things writing and stories as well. Check it out if you have time: www.lyndsaylomax.com

Farewell May

1 Jun

I normally write my monthly round up on the last day of the month but everything is being postponed or cancelled so I decided it wasn’t so bad to post this a day later.

May seems like it has gone on forever. Lockdown has started to ease in Switzerland but we are still being asked to remain cautious and work has said we will be working from home at least until the end of July. I guess a decision will be made once the effect of the easing measures has been assessed as to what the next steps are for returning to work.

I must admit I enjoy working from home far more than I do slepping into the office every day. It’s quiet at home so I can concentrate on my tasks more and, even though there is a lot of flexiblity in my team and job, I’ve found it great to be able to pop out for a run or a walk while I’m waiting for information from another team. You can’t do that when you work in the office!

Despite lockdown I have managed to have an action packed month. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve started tennis lessons. Tennis has to be one of the best sports to be able to maintain social distancing. The last time I picked up a tennis racket was when I was about 14. I’ve only had a few lessons but I’m enjoying it and learning a lot at the same time.
  • This month I ran 115km. My goal was to beat last month’s total which was 91km. So I smashed that. I had hoped to run more than 120km but the last few days I decided to skip running because I was feeling tired. I’m not sure if I will set myself a June running goal because I’m hoping to go back to the gym and carry on with my PT training which will mean I’ll definitely be too tired to run.
  • I’ve been on a few nature walks over the past few weeks. Just wandering round on the local pathways. You can see one of the photos I took below.
  • I’ve had online quizzes with my family and the netball team which have been great fun.
  • I’ve also written my first ever one act play thanks to the drama course I’ve taken during lockdown. I am hoping that the play will one day be performed live. I’m very excited about that!
  • I’m also in the middle of creating a solo performance with the same drama group. We should be ready to perform in (online, of course) next week so I need to get cracking with that rather than just thinking about it.
  • I’ve also finished another one of my challenges. This is a big deal for me and I can’t believe I’ve done it but I have. I will reveal all later this week in a separate post!

So that was May. As I said I’m hoping to get back to PT training in June and get back to some reading which has gone off the boil slightly in May because of the other creative projects I’ve been up to!

I hope you have been productive and well in May as well!

A family of ducks I saw on a nature walk

Challenge #26 – completed!

19 May

Last weekend I finished another one of my challenges. I have now learnt 40 origami designs!

There are so many videos on the internet which so many different and designs and techniques that it has been a great challenge to complete during lockdown. All you need is a stack of paper and internet connection.

Here are the last 15 designs I made to complete the challenge. Some of them were easier than others. I tried to make a balance of easy and difficult ones to make the challenge more interesting.

In case you’re in any doubt they are (top left to bottom right): a tie, tulip, diamond, envelope, box, butterfly, sweet, star, dress, jellyfish (looks to me more like a UFO), heart, sword and 3 dinosaurs recreating Jurassic Park!

I think my favourite one from this batch was the butterfly. I’ve tried to make a couple of butterflies before but never managed it. This was fairly easy to make.

My favourite overall design has to be Pikachu!

I have now officially completed half of my challenges. So I’m about right on target. I’m slightly nervous about my travel challenges… I’ll have to see if I am able to complete them in the time remaining!

Lockdown Positives

13 May

I started to lose track of days, weeks and months a while ago. I don’t know when the current crisis will be over and things will be back to normal. Although what we knew to be normal might be something different in the future. I’ve been thinking recently about what positive things have happened since lockdown was introduced. Because there are definitely some.

Here is a list I put together of things I’ve been grateful for which I definitely wouldn’t be if there was no coronavirus:

  1. I’ve realised how stressful I find travelling on public transport. It’s very reliable and clean but trains in the morning and evening are packed with noisy, rude people who reserve seats with their bags and play music too loud so everyone in the carriage can hear it. People have video calls without using headphones which is so inconsiderate. I hate listening to someone wittering on to a relative when I’m trying to read my book in peace. I’ve been so grateful to have no commute (more time in bed for one) but I feel relatively calm when I sit down to work rather than feeling harrassed.
  2. I’ve spoken to my niece and nephew more over the past few months than the rest of their lives put together. I’ve been doing ‘lessons’ with my friend on most weekdays which I would like to think we both enjoy. I’ve also spoken more with my brother and mum as well. We have weekly family quizzes which are so funny they should be televised.
  3. I have also had contact with friends who I’ve not seen or heard from in a long time. With not being able to go out, I’ve finally found the time to give them a call or write to them. These are things I’ve overlooked and taken for granted for a long time. It’s starting to redress the balance a bit.
  4. I’ve been able to bring some projects forward. For instance, I’ve started writing a novel. I’m probably about 40% of the way into the first draft. This is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember but neither never got round to it or started it and soon given up. I’ve learnt from my previous mistakes and feel like I’m making real progress. In the time I would have spent commuting I have been able to invest time into my writing project. Fingers crossed the first draft will be ready by the end of May.
  5. I’ve been taking photos every day since the start of lockdown as a record of what I have been doing during this time. It’s a good way to see that it hasn’t been so bad even though I’ve been stuck inside most of the time. I’m not sure when to finish the project. I might start taking one photo a week until things are back to normal.
  6. My drama classes have moved online which has been great fun. I’ve met some new people in a virtual sense and learn a lot. I’ve also been able to use some of the exercises and activities in my writing. My drama teacher is hoping to put on a performance of the pieces we have created live when it’s possible to which would be very cool.

I could probably go on and go about the positives. I think there are a lot of them if you look hard enough but I know not every one feels the same. I quite like pottering around the house, reading, starting projects that I have been meaning to for ages and I like not having to think up excuses of why I don’t want to go somewhere or do something. No one is doing anything at the moment so I don’t get any invitations!

Wherever you are stay safe and try to find some positives, no matter how small they seem to be.

Adios April!

30 Apr

It’s been a funny month. Today is the 44th day of Lockdown in Switzerland but things are slowly, slowly beginning to reopen.

I have heard people saying they have lost motivation to do anything during Lockdown but I’ve managed to keep myself busy over the past month, despite the restrictions. I’ve been quite productive. Being stuck at home has meant I’ve had time to re-organise my bathroom cabinet, take better care of my house plants and other small things I keep meaning to get round to doing but end up forgetting or being too tired when I get back from work.

However, aside from these little jobs, I have been busy with quite a few other things. Firstly, I set myself the challenge of running 70km this month. I’ve only done one long run (which was 11km and that’s not all that long really). The rest have been shorter. I’ve managed to run my 90th kilometer this afternoon! I was so surprised that going 6 times a week and doing short distances would add up to such a large total. I guess my goal for next month should be to run 100km or more.

Of course, I have been baking more than usual over the past 30 days so this might be a motivation to my running success. I’ve baked hot cross buns (2 batches), crumpets, scones and a rhubarb and apple crumble. Even though I’ve only done this, I now don’t think applying for Great British Back Off is just a pipe dream.

I’ve also been reading a lot, although over the past couple of days I’ve not been as interested in it. I’m not sure if that’s because of the book I’m reading or because I’ve reached my fill for April.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing and I’ve been dabbling in screen writing for the first time since being at school. This project came about because I signed up to do an online drama course with the drama teacher I studied with at the end of last year. In one of the sessions we looked at home to write a theatre scene and now I am trying to finish it. It will hopefully be a short 3 act play. The drama course has been great fun and I have learnt so many things that I can use for my fiction writing as well.

I’ve also decided now is the right time to sit down and start the first draft of my novel. I am (almost) 5’000 words in and it is interesting to see where the book is going. It seems like it might be a Young Adult novel or a children’s book which isn’t what I thought it would be like when I sat down to write.

Aside from all of this, I’ve been playing online board games with friends and virtual quizzes with family and the netball club. It has possibly been one of the most productive month’s ever for me so I am sad it is over.

Let’s see what May will bring and what I will find myself doing if they let us outside again!

Fitness Goals Update

24 Apr

2020 was going to be the year that I got fit and ticked more of my fitness goals off my list. Unfortunately, it looks like Coronavirus has put a stop to my modest ambitions for this year.

Two running races I was going enter have now been cancelled which has left me at a bit of a loose end. I find exercise a lot easier if I have something to aim for. With these races off the cards, I decided to set myself the target of running 70km in April. Just to be clear that this means literally putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not trying to break a world record or anything! Today is 24th April and I’ve already surpassed 72km. I guess I’ll keep going and see how many kilometres I can get in total.

I have enjoyed running more than normal I think because this is the only reason I leave the house. I feel a bit like a dog let off the lead and I end up running further than I had planned to. But not every single time. It just goes to show that doing something little and often adds up to a big difference.

Having to put off the races I was planning for this year, means that I might not make my target of running an Ultramarathon this time next year. To help me get fit for my 50km race next year, I had also started personal training sessions to get me into shape quicker. I was 2 weeks into a 12 weeks plan when Coronavirus shut my gym.

On reflection it is far better to have stopped 2 weeks from the beginning of the training plan than 2 weeks from the end. I will have to restart the programme again when everything is back to normal and the gym is reopened.

I’m currently deciding what my fitness goal should be in May. I might try and beat the amount of kilometres I ran in April or I might switch to the bike for a change. Or I might do something completely different. I have a few days to decide yet.

I think at the moment the best thing to do is make sure you’re getting enough exercise for physical and mental well being. I think I’m probably doing enough at the moment. If anything it is a good excuse to get out and enjoy the amazing weather we’re having.